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Monday, January 4, 2010
Rossi has right stuff -- on two wheels

By Tom McKean
ESPN.com

Valentino Rossi
Dani Pedrosa showers Valentino Rossi, left, as the Italian celebrates winning the MotoGP World Championship at the Sepang International Circuit in Sepang, Malaysia, on Oct. 25, 2009.

We have introduced you to Sebastien Bourdais, Sam Hornish Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Tom Kristensen and Sebastein Loeb as we roll out the nine candidates for ESPN.com's Driver of the Decade -- in alphabetical order -- one at a time. Our panel of experts has voted for its top drivers. You will get your turn in a SportsNation fan vote Friday.

The Driver of the Decade will be revealed Jan. 11.

Meet candidate No. 6 …

Valentino Rossi
Series: MotoGP

Not all the greatest drivers hail from four wheels. Valentino Rossi prefers two, and there's no wonder as to why:

Seven world championships this decade -- six MotoGP titles since the inception of the class in 2002, and a 500cc title in 2001 (the premier class at the time).

Rossi wrapped up this year's world championship title before the season finale. In this decade, Rossi has won nearly half the races (about 46 percent) in the toughest motorcycle series on the planet. He's won at least half the races in six seasons.

Rossi's nearly 80 wins this decade are an all-time record, not just a single-decade record. His seven titles since 2000 are also second most in series history, one behind the all-time career mark.

Keep in mind that this series has been around as long as Formula One and NASCAR.

Tom McKean is a studio researcher at ESPN.